Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sweet success, in the sugar cane pos pose

I am excited that not a day goes by, when I do not learn a new yoga name or a new pose, or a new variation of an old pose, or even a challenging new way to enter an old pose. Even more exciting for me is how I can make almost all my students reach poses that appear daunting. That all I want from them, is the will to do it,and it may be attempted.

This is part of the thrill of being a yoga teacher. And now, as new students come I am less daunted at their awkwardness with their bodies or their disconnect, because I know that my guru's grace is going to get them to pass through this stage easily enough:)

The sugarcane pose (chapasana) in its many variations -- from top let, side plant, mountain, cat, standing forward bend (setuasana, parvatasana, vyagrasana, uttanasana).

It is a lovely challenging pose. I realize it works the oblique with intricate intensity (especially in the side plank), opens the hips in all its variations, and tremendously challenges your senseof balance. In the cat stretch, there is also the easier version of holding ankle with the opposite hand (unlike here, with the same right hand holding right ankle). So, it apparently has endless possibilities.
On the emotional level, it offers:
  1. Exhilaration (it is quite interesting to note that most poses which challenge the "love handle" muscles have this impact).
  2. A keen sense of adventure.
  3. Playfulness (because you must be prepared to fall and pick upin the learning stages).
  4. Stability, groundedness.
  5. An openness of the mind (otherwise most stretches are difficult if you are learning later in life:)
  6. Focus.
  7. Internalisation/involution of the mind.
  8. Fearlessness (a lot of fear comes from how harshly we judge ourselves as beginners/or when we fall and much of the injuries on the mat come from either a lack of focus or extreme ego).
  9. A love for precision and structure, and therefore clarity of thinking.
  10. Pure stamina of the spirit.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Eka pada galavasan is an ankle crusher!

This pose remains one of my most challenging ones, and also a work in progress. Some days, I feel I have lifted the back leg high. But when I take an image of the pose (selfies do have some uses:) it appears as if the leg is curving too much to denote strength.

So, yes, it is a very difficult pose to master and the pain in the ankle, to which I feel a strong resistance, has to be withstood before I proceed ahead.

But this is the first time, today, I caught on to all the mistakes I've been making and that makes it an interesting pose to relearn.

* It is better entered from a squatting upright position, even if you must use a blocks. This is a lighter entry.
* But here different sets of muscles get used. From a squat, you use upper back (which is possible for many yoga practitioners) but from a standing position you need pure hip strength, and a peculiar band of muscle along the hip. So, you may have to struggle with this stage -- with the leg bent --  for a while before you develop muscle memory and strength for that.

* The foot locks itself on the arm. It is better than getting it crushed mindlessly (as I managed to do till now!).The foot is not under the chest, but curved around the arm, in a hook.

* The shin bone of the bent leg also creates a pressing lock and that is how the leg does not slide off.

*It is better to learn strength with the back leg bent and do it for longer than crave an instant lift that is never satisfying and does not give you the right muscle memory.

This pose has taught me that sometimes it is better to unlearn everything and start afresh, with the mind cleansed of the mistakes and from another place (of entry) so the mind is not cluttered by memories that get in the way.

Happy sadhana!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Now the left nostril impact!

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We saw the right nostril impact (sympathetic nervous system triggered), pressure in eye decreases, blinking increases, heart beat increases, right lung preferentiality, increases blood sugar, verbal performance improved.

* Stimulates parasympathetic nervous system.
* Lowers blood sugar.
*Reduces blink rate.
*Increases intraocular pressure
*Decreases heart rate.
*Inflates left lung preferentiality

(From Yoga as Medicine), a Yoga Journal book, by Timothy McCall, M.D.

The image of moon used because left nostril breathing is said to awaken the moon/cooling energy of the ida nadi.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Five powerful effectts you surely did not know about right nostril breathing

(Have used the ardhanareshwar image, because it is often used to illustrate the Right-Left nostril/brain balancing in yogic breathing practices)

I have purchased this exciting book Yoga As Medicine  by Timothy McCall,M.D.( a Yoga Journal book) and this is what I found out. Many of you already know that right nostril breathing stimulates the left brain, and therefore verbal skills, and also stimulates the sympathetic nervous system.

But here is more:
* Increases blood sugar levels
*Increases blinking rate
* Decreases eye pressure
* Increases heart rate.
*Inflates right lung preferentially.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Five tips to get a smooth forward bend: paschimottanasana deconstructed

A yoga practice is incomplete without a perfect seated forward bend. And it will,for many of us, remain a work in progress.

Here are five tips from the one still cleaning up this most exciting, soothing and spiritual of all poses. Btw in all classic sequences and ancient yogic texts, this pose is always a fixture.

  • Do the butterfly or titaliasana regularly to open the hips up. It is the tightness at the hips that sets off shooting pain at the knees.
  • When you move into the pose, do not immediately start to exert or push. This will create a reflexive contraction at the joints which will mess up your intention towards more joint flexibility.
  • Always move very lightly and one-mm at a time more deeply, into the pose. This will help you reach the pose faster.
  • VISUALISE. Most people think of effort only from the body. Yoga is a lot of what happens in your own mind. Visualise that you have reached the pose. Imagine that you can feel the texture of your yoga pants with your chin or nose or face .. you'll be pleasantly surprised that you can actually reach low enough to do that.
  • Avoid bouncing : it creates the same reflexive contraction and makes you tighter.
Happy sadhana!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Side crow,parsva bakasana: From high to low

The basic side crow possibly, for me, is one of the toughest arm balancers.
The variations that come from it, push up the ante,even more.

Not many people really crack it step-by-step. A few tips to enter this pose neatly:

* Stand up to enter the pose instead of trying it from a seated squat.
* Do side-planks to strengthen each wrist and forearm.
* Be prepared for the surprise shift into one arm when you enter the pose.
* Unless you stress the forearm, through regular practice,even if only for a short time, your arms will never understand the special strength needed for it.
* Never forget the most important thing: maintain a focal point on which to fix your eyes. This will somehow make your mind calm enough to enter it more confidently.

Happy sadhana!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Ask yourself this Chakra questions and track the one out of balance

I keep picking up the Bible MBS series -- a compilation of specific topics. So,yes, though it started off with the Yoga Bible which is very good, the collection has now grown to include several things, including if I confess, Fairies Bible:)
But there are similar books in the market. So, I had picked up this Essential Guide to Chakras(by Swami Saradananda)
... a rather excellent book on the topic. This is very compact and very practical. Some of the books, even for a yoga freak and an avid reader like me, can be rather abstruse. Like the Laya Yoga by Shyam Sunder Goswami which is very educated but too intricate for excited reading. It is more of a scholarly book and needs that bent of mind.

Here I picked a few questions from the book which may help you track an imbalance in a specific chakra for you. What I liked about the books was of course these set of questions, plus how the topic was presented in an accessible manner. I am very excited by the book because of how of the practical ways you can access info on your chakra imbalances and rectify them on your own. It is amazing!

Mooladhara: Do I feel as if I do not belong?
Swadhisthana: Do I feel stuck in my life?
Manipura:  You notice you are apologizing too frequently?
Anahata: You are unable to accept compliments gracefully or believe them fully?
Vishuddha: YOu have to have the last word?Or too timid to speak up?
Ajna: Do I tend to set too high a standard?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Spikenard aroma oil: a spiritual oil, for the yogi

(Image from this site

I had bought this oil, almost absentmindedly, a year ago. It was packed well I guess, and has retained its earthy flavor/aroma.I unearthed it yesterday and decided to check out its healing value. And found out very exciting things about it. And to complete this serendipity, I also find that it is a solar plexus oil --helps to harmonise this center. And I've been thinking a lot about this center lately. So, its a lovely way to wind up the weekend, luxuriating to the idea of meditating with this oil.

Some things I found out:
* It was used by Mary, to anoint the feet of Christ, before the arrest.
* It helps lower the bad cholesterol, increase the good ones.
* balances estrogen.
* anti-depressant.
* helps balance heart and solar plexus.
* used in several ancient cultures for spiritual and meditative purposes.
* Sedative

It seems as if this oil was created for me. But despite having it in my cupboard for it, I discover it only now! Strange are the ways of karma:)


Monday, October 27, 2014

Obesity: a yoga perspective

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I have been trying to drop two kgs for the last one year or so. I reach a lovely state when it is gone, and then, again, over a few days, it is back again. Its been very intriguing not so much for the aesthetic value of being slim but simply because it seems to happen on its own -- and I've wondered how this happens, with someone as watchful as I. Where does the fat come from, if not from the food alone:)!!

So, I thought I will leave the usual pathway of seeing it from the perspective of a nutritionist/exercise freak/dieter and instead see it from the psycho-somatic bird view, rarely assumed by anybody.

This is what I unearthed

*Doreen Virtue, who writes on metaphysical stuff, in her books suggests that fat is used by the individual to protect oneself against perceived threat. Really, this makes some sense to me. You may not be expecting an UFO attack, but I think some of us who are extra-over-sensitive may have this problem. It is worth examining this connection.
* Louise L. Hay, the best-selling author and alternative healer, believes that fat is due to oversensitivity. It is a form of protection. It may also be a cover for anger. And a resistance to forgive.
* Hay believes that fat on different parts of the body may represent different types of anger.
*Dr Swami Karmananda of the Bihar school of yoga believes that obesity may be of two kinds, as they happen in two types of personality. In the competitive person, food becomes the channel to release pent-up energy. In the other type of person, arising from boredom. In either case, it arises from frustration and unfulfilled creative energy.

So basically, there seems to be some sort of consensus amongst these writers from different walks of life -- that overeating/fat deposits could be due to unfulfilled creative outlet, anger, fear and hypersensitivity.

It is an intriguing way to look at weight control and perhaps a lot more success would be achieved if weight control was tweaked from this angle.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ten differences between the shoulderstand and the psychic union pose

Here are the differences between these two poses, which intriguingly enough, are often taught as one is many classes. Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana ) and Psychic union pose (Viparita Karani mudrasana)

Shoulderstand / SARVANGASANA
* More advanced -- it is the later stage of viparita karani mudra. You have to transit the VKM first to reach this.
* Tremendous pressure at the throat, deliberately induced to create the jalandhara bandha or chin lock. This lock prevent the leakage of nervous energy upwards.
* Difficult to hold for long, unless you practice it regularly.
* Cannot be done with a prop.
* Increases pressure on thyroid and is used to harmonize this gland and correct imbalance of hypothyroidism
* For same reason, helps lose weight naturally.
* Stresses the neck in a positive way, but must not be attempted while having cervical problems.
* The neck and shoulders take the brunt of the pose.
* Contraindicated in certain problems, including blood pressure or cardiac issues.

* Could be a preparatory pose for shoulderstand, though it is a complete pose in itself. Mastery in it is essential to reach sarvangassana
*: Less pressure at the throat. Is easier on the neck, and more pressure at the lower back
* Duration in it may be progressively increased to great lengths, even for those not very adept at other inversions. To even five minutes or more.
* Can be done with props -- a wall, bolster, chair etc..
* Has  a mild impact on the thyroid, but not as intense as sarvagasana.
* Helps weight loss, but not as intensely as sarvangasana.  A lot of heavy waisted women hold this pose comfortably, and may not effectively use it as a weight loss pose if held too low.
* The stress at the neck is minimal, if  you learn to hold the pose properly, with the legs low, and feet over the head.
* Upper back takes the brunt of the pose.
* May even be taught to heart patients after regular yoga practice of other poses. And may be done with prop, and actually help the heart heal. Is sometimes called the cardiac pose for this reason.

Sacred sounds, sacred moments

The moment of peace, when the cows return home. their bells ringing in the evening haze, the smell of raw earth as their hooves kick up dust, and the sense of coming home. The sacred language of Sanskrit has a word for that moment of supreme, special peace - Godhuli. In your spiritual life, there must be such moments. NO more seeking.. returning home. The sacred sounds convey this.. in my singing bowl blog

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Why pranyama works? Your Reptile brain is sorted!!

(The image is from this site)

Its intriguing that I have students who resist pranayama. Obviously, they are the ones who need it the most.

I once had an American lady student, who insisted that I was very strict and set in my ways, because I was not open to her suggestion that I must allow the class to proceed without any structure and just do "what one felt like doing." She gave me a lot of notes by some enlightened yoga instructor who felt that was the way yoga must be done. She felt I was being set and strict and stubborn (ass-headed, she did not say, but implied) and added a sugar-underline to it by claiming she was also like that, but trying to change and I must seek a similar open-mindedness.

But you know, I am not these "do your own yoga thing". I believe there is something mystical and yet scientific about the practice as it was found and has grown along the thousand of years its been around. Partly why it works is because  of elegance of the structure and immense scientific and intuitive instinct that props all of that up to withstand any rational scrutiny.
And I've also learnt that what you resist, possibly is what you need to do the most, on the mat. Plus, it is about impulse control (including  the much-maligned tantra practices which are much-misunderstood) and not about indulgence for the sake of it.

The lady would snivel and snort with fever or cold. Could not do headstand despite claiming to have devoted a life-time to yoga and having learnt it somewhere along the way and resisted surya namaskar. She wandered off, after one long argumentative conversation with me, trying to make me drop my "set" practice. And I was happy to see her go, simply because I was not willing to be converted by her at all.

So yes, over the years I have become adamant about pranayama practices and believe there is no yoga without it. I am also glad that I can manage the essential pranayamas in my hour-long class come what may. And that will take me into the idea of quantum time (for which, you must read the classic Yoga of Time Travel), which I'd like to discuss later on. That time expands to fill your need and if you want to do a five-minute head, and a full practice, including a nidra, it is absolutely possible within an hour. We nowadays have edged up to 40 sun salutes, without being bound by time. I believe that time expansion comes partly from the power of my students and their will towards a strong practice. More on that later.

Here I merely wish to say I am glad I hung on to pranayama in my classes (sadly many yoga classes in Mumbai neglect this crucial practice) because while reading Harish Johari's Tools of Tantra I found this connection as to why it is so important in mind control. Pranayama  works on the brain stem!!

This part has three sub-divisions, which control autonomic functions
* Heart beat
* Blood pressure
* Breathing
* Movement / Co-ordination
* Reticular formation -- subconscious -- also controls sleep
* Controls attention
* Integrates information coming in from the senses (means, there is connection to your reactions)
* In learning, this could define how you classify information that you learn.
In fact, this part of the brain is the oldest, next to the Reptilian brain, and its reactions are automatic and immediate. Working on this is a powerful way to deal with impulse control.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Hanumanasana:the ultimate stretch

Hanumanasana is an exciting pose for those who wish to gauge themselves on the mat, in terms of hatha practice. It can also show you if you have fallen behind in your practice, as often happens with advanced students who are either too complacent, or too busy teaching others to become advanced (ha ha, and you know who I am talking of:)

So, unless one keeps returning to these poses or builds on them in a rounded fashion by healing existing injuries, or preparing for a pose that you have lost over a few months, one cannot claim to be a teacher. Part of being a good teacher is that you never forget the student in yourself.

So, yes, Hanumanasana teaches you to be a humble teacher. Or a proud one, if you can do it with ease and have become exhibitionist, as can also happen with so many in this zone.  There is always that flipside.

Since my knee injury a few years ago, from kickboxing, that I healed on my own and with my practice, I am a bit chary about stretching that left leg. But I also want it (my leg) to get over its primitive fear of another tear.. so I keep returning to these extreme poses. That leg, even today, when stretched can resist a lot and there are times of course, when I feel nauseated, with the pain that wells up. But you cannot be an effective yoga teacher without a hint of madness and a lot of belief in quantum healing. So, yes, this pose for me is an assertion of all these things.

Many sites and books are going to tell you the physical aspect of the pose, and how to enter it from that angle. But  actually a lot of what a yoga pose talks of, comes from the name given to it, and below I have tried to understand the attitude that must be used to reach this pose, as Lord Hanuman must have felt --  a powerful man who never ever used his powers for himself. The pose speaks of that special quality in him.

What Hanumanasana needs, in terms of attitude:
* A lot of letting go
* A clear assessment of pain in the pose, and understanding where you can take it on, and where you must respect it and move back.
* Loosening up, where you feel yourself stiffening, instead of tightening up.
* Constant urge to deepen the pose as you settle into it, over the pain and then realize the comfort in doing that.
* The attitude of tapas.
* An involution of the mind.
*A settling in, a state of steadiness where it may originally start off in a wobbly fashion.

Yes, this pose is an extreme teacher:)

Happy sadhana!!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Bliss foods, to fight depression

Depression is a subject close to my heart. I originally started off yoga with a whole "bouquet" of problems-- these included bronchitis, at the physical level, and at the emotional level deep and clinical depression, undiagnosed those days because I simply did not know it was a problem and thought it was personality trait that came from my background - poverty, familial problems as a child etc. . The reason I became awed by yoga and its corresponding sister sciences like Ayurveda (diet) and naturopathy was that it offered cure at a very sensible and commonsensical fashion. It also told me that I was not imagining what I felt, and that I could heal myself if I just continued in the path I was going, including eating the right food. It empowered me by allowing me to be my own healer. It is a puzzle to me why people struggle with yoga -- I mean, it gave me my life back.

Any case, this article in shares some part of the wonder. And it is written with the death of Robin Williams still fresh in my mind -- that a lot of depressives should not be given anti-depression pills because they are addictive, but just be guided firmly along the yoga and Ayurveda path for healing.

And if you did not know it (in a way I should be grateful my clinical depression was not diagnosed, because I would have been smothered with anti-depression medication) these pills, though originally they contain the problem, they actually make you suicidal. Nowadays I am told prescriptions for these are made for children who cannot cope with exam stress!! Horrible..

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Toughest Astavakrasana..

Managed to get this extremely tricky Astavakrasana. It must be its toughest variation yet. You use muscles you have never used before and also first become comfortable with extreme discomfort at the elbow. (Which is a gentle way of saying unnatural pain:)
It is a very "heavy" pose and the body has to struggle with understanding which part of must be used for the lift. Unlike in the basic astavakrasana, where one hand lifts the pose, in this both arms are used, which actually makes it a bit difficult because the weight is not evenly distributed. Also, the pose cannot be entered at this final position. You may have to learn to start by having your forearm on the ground and then lifting up. Then releasing the wrist and palm. Which is all very tricky and asks for frequent shift of weight on the overloaded elbow.

But I believe regular practice of this will help with the scorpion pose which has the similar elbow lift and is called the "chilled out" scorpion pose, I think:)
Happy sadhana!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Astavakrasana, the powerful message of the pose

Here is the message of the Astavakrasana, attributed to a child saint, who was only 12 years old when he revealed his spiritual maturity and wisdom. Here, in a slight rebuke to the aversion expressed by king Janaka on seeing his crooked body, the young boy says:

O King, just as the shape of a temple does not affect the akasa (sky), the crookedness of the physical body has no effect on Atma (Soul). A wise man has Atmadrstii.e. he looks at the Reality behind this manifested world, whereas an ignorant one hasCarma-drsti i.e. he gets lost in names and forms."

What a powerful message, especially when we fail to keep track of yogic philosophy behind each pose...


Astavakrasana advanced version: the crooked limb pose, elevated to another level

When I learnt this pose, I was super excited.I  had read the Astavakragita before I learnt the pose and though a small text, it is a very exciting, clear cut treatise that explains the spiritual philosophy of yoga in a concise form.  The story of the crooked limbed saint is also gripping.

I have been teaching the "simpler" version of this pose to my students and realize how much more easy it is than the parsvabakasana (side crow) and many other arm balances, though it looks so complicated. Most of my students pick it up on first attempt, or in the following week, after regular practice. Which just goes to show that in India at least many of these poses are not being taught simply because the teachers are lazy or not as excited about the hatha yoga aspect of the practice. Too much blah, without too much practice makes for a very boring practice.

However, this version is rather tough. It is an upward lift of the legs against gravity and needs very strong oblique muscles and core strength.

* Focus on the oblique muscles to lift up.
* Keeping the hands as straight as possible, when starting off (the lifting arm will bend a bit, to accommodate the legs).
* Keeping the legs -- the bottom leg -- straight and to the side.

It is a very tough pose and very exciting to practice.  The engagement of the oblique muscles kicks into acupressure points that stimulate the nervous system positively, and hits what I prefer to call "joy" points!
* Needs a very strong basic astavakrasana.
* Brahmacharyasana and lolasasana as preparatory poses.
* A steady boat pose too.

HERE ARE A FEW VERSES FROM THIS SITE, from a translation of Astavakragita.  If you try to grasp them, you will finally understand what yoga is about. However, I advise those who wish to read the Astavakragita to pick up the inexpensive translation/interpretation  by Ramakrishna mission(Khar, Mumbai) It is best to read such treatises through several interpretations. The translations may not quite vault you into the stratosphere of thinking which is Indian philosophy:)

A sage said: "First of all I was averse to physical activity, then to lengthy speech, and finally to thinking itself. Trying to think the unthinkable is unnatural to thought."                                                                                         
56. Just as the performance of actions is due to ignorance, so their abandonment is also due to ignorance. 
57. The inner freedom of having nothing is hard to achieve, because it requires living as one pleases, abandoning both renunciation and acquisition.                                                                          
58. Recognising that in reality no action is ever committed, the sage lives as he pleases, just attending to what presents itself to be done. 
59. No benefit or loss ever comes to you, consequently live as you please, abandoning the pleasant and unpleasant.
60. One person of pure intelligence may achieve the goal by the most casual of instructions, while another may seek knowledge all his life and still remain bewildered.  

Happy sadhana!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Scorpion pose tidbits

According to Swami Satyanandaji  the scorpion pose(only some facts that are not too well known about the pose is here:)
  1. Reorganises prana around the body
  2. Tones the uro-genital system
  3. Stops the aging process
  4. Rectifies glandular disorders
  5. Is a ajna chakra pose (Third eye/intuition chakra)
Interestingly both the Iyengar book and Swami Satyanandaji's book are using the same words -- verbatim -- to describe how the scorpion pose is a pose of ego subjugation. I wonder who said it first, and if it is a translation from a major text... even so, word to word, the same description!

The easiest of the scorpion variation: baddha vrschikasana (locked scorpion)

Yes, I like teaching the scorpion. But to teach it, you need a basal attitude from the student. An ability to fall and not be overwhelmed by that. Because letting go is the first way to reach the pose. I believe this pose can teach you a lot of things: focus, regular practice, total awareness, and an ability to shift awareness when things are constricting you (as may happen with the breath unless you learn to release it, which means you again invite the chance to fall over:), strength and a sense of not taking anything --including your skills -- for granted. I have seen students who I have taught this, equally, due to lack of practice lose it. Coming from that can be more daunting than learning it for the first time. Though many have attempted it, only a few of my students can stake claim to this pose. Which is sad, because this pose helps you take a leap in yogic awareness.

I have neglected my lotus scorpion for a while. Today tried it and had to feel the struggle of returning to the pose.  So, settled into this locked scorpion, which is the easiest of the variations, if you wish to play around while being lifted aloft.

To this, you need the basic scorpion to be strong and steady.

What B.K. S. Iyengar says about the scorpion:

He says the drawing of the feet towards head creates humility in the practitioner. The head is the seat of power. But it is also the seat of the ego. Drawing the feet (a more flexible person than I, can rest the feet on the  head) towards the head is to create the sense of ego subjugation.

Mmmm..worth a thought!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

R I P Guruji -- remembering B.K.S. Iyengar

In my pre-yoga days I was fortunate enough to visit Iyengar at his  Pune institute, for his 80th birthday celebrations. .
I was given the assignment suddenly, because the journalist who wanted to do that assignment, suddenly ditched. When assignments came suddenly, I had a huge build-up of stress as a mother of a young baby -- her  life and food and care had to be organized just as suddenly. Those days were before mobile made life and connections easier.
My mind, as a mother on the go, was always thinking about my baby -- just five years old then. I was having my periods. I remember even now, that day as a tough one,  multi-tasking and playing multiple roles, catching any first Pune bus, mentally gearing for a long ride, bleeding heavily and uncomfortable with that, and fortified only with some vada pav picked up along the way.  When I landed up, it was tough to have an one-on-one with the great man because a celebratory puja was along the way... and I tried as much to be around where he was, and then, later in the afternoon, when he was at the institute, followed him about.
 I was starving, feeling messy,  was exhausted, worried about my baby very much, and also, as happens at such occasions, felt jostled about, by some "official machinery"  around him.

This article was born of that tough ride:

Then, here, now as a yoga freak who has used Iyengar book all the time, for reference and support and study, my tribute written this morning:


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Robin Williams, depression, your heart chakra

The irony of a comic genius dying of depression and the fact that he was such a loved face all around the world has driven home the horrible reality of depression. As a yoga teacher, depression is one of the biggest "ailments" I have consistently seen cropping up. Other ailments -- generally of physiological nature -- are usually almost always reversed or controlled with yoga. But depression has a tenacity all its own. Also, most depressives, including those on pills, do not see it as a physiological condition and believe that something is seriously wrong with them, as individuals, that it won't go away. So often, you will find depressives play footsie with the therapies that could heal them -- and will withdraw back and forth. In a manner of speaking, it is like addictive behavior -- the feeling overshadows everything, including their choices, and the feeling is wired to be self-destructive so it cunningly denies cures, even if often it almost could have been sorted.

This is a tragedy of the problem and I fear medicine cannot do much here..

Not just my study of chakras,but my own propensity to  emotional turmoil (which is why I am comfortable teaching yoga since I am not like those perfect, haloed  teachers and because I offer from my own experience of pain, weaknesses and falls and tumbles:) it is the heart that is the culprit.

According to Anodea Judith, whom I refer a lot to, on chakras, the fourth center /heart chakra in trouble is when grief overwhelms it.

Interestingly I picked up Let your Brain Be your Doctor, by Luis S.R. Vyas (who I believe is a very neglected author and deserves more attention than is reserved for him) where he makes out a case for "heart coherence". He draws up scientific data to show how the heart (emotions) actually controls much of how the brain (nervous system) behaves, though conventional wisdom seems to imagine that the brain is in control. He shows how the heart functions can affect mechanisms all over the body. That the heart has its own method and that to be able to become aware of this could well be the first, baby step you take towards healing anything, including emotions.

He has provided very simple steps by which you can change the way your heart behaves, at a physical level. For that you need to read his book.

I hope this quote helps you run to order this book (@ Rs 130 published by Better yourself books)
"We measure the heart's activity in rhythms. Research reveals that the rhythmic pattern of variability in your hear rate is related to your health, your emotional state and your thinking.
Not only that, but your heart's rhythms act as a powerful force to bring the rest of your body, including you brain, into a similar rhythm. If the pattern of your heart rate variability is one cycle very ten seconds, then it pulls the brain in to  a state of synchrony - that is your  brain harmonizes with your heart and both operate at higher levels of efficiency and effectiveness. Getting your heart rare variability to one cycle per 10 seconds is  the trick and anyone can do it."

Tomorrow, I am going to draw more into this topic of depression from the yogic perspective.
Its a subject very close to my heart.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Practices that help strengthen the heart chakra

Usually, if that is what you need, it is probably very difficult for you, on the mat.
I mean, if you needed to heal the heart chakra, it is likely the practices that heal, strengthen and tone this center can give you a lot of trouble initially. It takes a long and regular practice to get the heart chakra to open itself to what you intend.
I have known students who can burst out crying for no reason, and continuously cry though claim they are not sad but just feel the need for this release. This has happened with
* The wheel pose /chakrasana
* some variations of the bhujangasana/cobra and locust /salabhasana -- with the latter being really difficult for the heart-chakra affected person.
* yoga nidra -- can set off a lot of crying and healing especially some visualisations that include love as an idea

This just means you need to really continue with gritted teeth if need be with these practices. All backbends help in this direction. This may be why some people will feel very uncomfortable in backbends -- dizziness, the sense of breathlessness, actually holding the breath and/or often doing the pose structurally wrong so as to not excite the heart!

Heart chakra and immune system

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The only problem with Richard Gerber's book on Vibrational Medicine is that it is so full of information that it takes a long while to read it. U skim a bit here and there and get overwhelmed by all that he presents. Of course, much of what gets written about vibrational medicine will still be seen by conventional science as weird, psycho-mumbo jumbo etc. But there are aspects of these sciences, such acupuncture healing, that is getting some recognition even by conventional doctors.
Any case, as I was skimming through the book I fell upon this page talking of heart chakra and how he links it to the thymus atropy and functioning. From my own experience I can fully agree with that.. when I am low I can fall sick -- it could be a flu, or some stray ailment. I've had it as a child. Interestingly, the other day when talking to my sister and looking back on some, for me then and now traumatic incidents, from childhood I realized my sister's recollect of these were very different. Which means we both reacted differently to what I even now recall as very very sad moments of my life. Also, in some cases she did not seem to remember the incidents with the same excruciating  painful detail as I did. And it goes to show  that something about the incidents still hurt me and frighten me and that the incidents were so painful for me that for a very long part of my childhood, teen and youth I was a very sickly person.
I would fall sick like that -- and interestingly the heart chakra is also dominated by the air element -- which is my dosha -- and it is a very anxiety inducing/disease inducing element. As creative as it is, it is also destructive and drying out. It needs to be constantly grounded and healed with earth and water elements.
If I deeply disturbed even today, I can still fall sick if I was not vigilant as to the exact trigger. Much of my awareness of what tricks me back to the sickly-loop comes again from yoga. It is as if I have stepped out of myself, and then see where my thinking (negative/sad/low) is taking me. I sit about to tackle that loop and can be assured immediately that I can prevent a sickness from completely felling me. It is exciting this sort of awareness between thinking and one's body and healing. I completely believe in it and understand that it cannot be otherwise. How can your mind, created solely to take care of the body, be different from it.
"It is possible that the age related involution of the thymus gland is not universal phenomenon. In those who do have thymic atrophy in later years there may be a relationship between loneliness, depression, blockage of the heart chakra and the loss of glandular function," Richard Gerber.

He believes some of the heart chakra blockage comes from lack of love,but primarily lack of self-love or suffering the loss of someone close.

All that psychic details apart, I mean to only explain that of the four siblings I was the sickliest and that it may be not so strange that a lot of incidents I remember make me cry even now and it is strange it did not affect my other siblings in that fashion. Much of the recovery of this wobbly chakra has happened to me through yoga. It has helped sealed the big hole where my heart is:)
Even today I can cry about anything at all and if I did not have yoga I would be sickly and possibly dead by now..

Monday, July 28, 2014

Pranayamas: and their chakras

When people come to me, from other yoga classes, they will say that pranayama is not being practiced within the structure of these classes. If it is done, it is done haphazardly. I do not wonder why.:  A lot of times,there is pressure from students themselves -- because a lot of people dislike mind-control practices. In fact, if the mind is allowed its monkey movements, then people are happy. This is why, it becomes tough to hang on with integrity to what you believe is good for your students, despite of themselves!

I have even today, some smart alecky students who will try to corner me before a class or after it, to indicate they do not want to practice pranayama.(Read: I pay for this class, and you know customer is king:) Some students make out like they want to spend more time in asanas;  some students will fidget a lot and generally indicate through their body language their discomfort with the practice; some will yawn loudly and continuously; I have had students who will stop doing pranayama and sit and stare around;  and I even had a student who gave me a huge pile of literature on "intuitive" way of doing yoga instead of following a classical structure. I mean.. it gets worse because you may be the only one in this entertainment seeking city to hang on to the idea of pranayama as what asanas should lead you towards and that it is very much a part of raja yoga and is approved of in all yogas -- jnana yoga (Ramana Maharishi says it is very important tool in mind control in this branch of yoga), Bhakti (Adi Shankarachaya suggests you could say the Gayatri mantra in the various limbs of nadi shodhana practice), Raja (Sw Vivekananda) and of course, hatha yoga itself.

Here is the list of the chakras, according to Sw Satyananda, and the pranayamas that work on them. You will find that a lot of practices have the third eye activation.

Kapalabhati -- Ajna (Third eye)
Bhastrika -- Manipura
Bhramari -- Ajna
Nadi shodhana -- Ajna
Ujjayi - Vishuddhi

It is important to understand that these practices help to align /harmonise these chakras and that asanas are just the route that prep you for pranayama.